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Breaking ball key to Braddock’s future

September 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Watching from the home bullpen this week, Brewers lefty Zach Braddock could learn a lot from Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman.

Both pitchers possess left-handed power arms, albeit on different levels. Both pitchers also operate with a slider as their No. 2 pitch. The difference — besides an extra 10 mph in fastball velocity — is the effectiveness of those sliders.

While Chapman’s is nearly unhittable, Braddock’s remains a work in progress.

“He is going to be as good in the big leagues as his breaking ball becomes,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “You just can’t come here and just throw one fastball after another, and being 93 [mph], it’ll get knocked around a bit.”

In six appearances this month, Braddock has posted a 7.71 ERA, giving up two runs on two walks and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .333 with a .795 OPS off Braddock in September.

For the first time this season, Braddock failed to record an out in each of his last two outings, surrendering a hit to the only batter he faced in each appearance. Aside from a 9.00 mark in three late May outings, Braddock’s 7.71 ERA this month is easily his worst in any month of the season.

Even worse has been Braddock’s performance against lefties, which could likely be attributed to a lack of effectiveness with his breaking ball.

After holding left-handed hitters to a .091 batting average in July and hitless in August, they are batting .400 off Braddock this month.

With those recent struggles in mind, Macha opted not to pitch the lefty Monday night against left-handed-hitting slugger Joey Votto with one on and one out in the eighth. Macha pointed to the last two games in San Francisco to back up his thought process.

“[Kameron] Loe came in and went right through their guys, [Aubrey] Huff being one of them,” Macha said. “The next day, I brought in Braddock against Huff and he hit a line drive. So, I figured Loe could go two innings.”

When asked if Braddock’s performance could be attributed to fatigue at the end of a long season, Macha pointed to the need for a better slider as a counter argument.

Braddock agreed with his manager’s assessment, though he believed his fastball was equally important to his success.

“When I have the ability to change speeds and move in and out, I can be more deceptive. I’m a better pitcher,” Braddock said. “I think strike one and fastball command is of a lot of importance, too. But with the slider comes the added ability to put in the hitters’ minds that there’s something else.”

Capuano’s solid start undone by late homers

September 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — With every start, Chris Capuano continues to make progress in his return from a second Tommy John surgery. On Monday, the 100-pitch mark was his latest milestone.

Capuano delivered an impressive performance for his third straight quality start, but back-to-back Reds home runs in the eighth made the difference as the Brewers lost their second straight game, 5-2.

Tossing six innings, Capuano gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Reaching the century mark for the first time this season, Capuano’s pitch count of 105 was his highest since throwing 113 pitches on Aug. 19, 2007.

“This was a huge step for him,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Not only getting past 100 pitches, but the game pretty much on the line [in the sixth inning]. First and second with one out, he winds up getting two big outs there.”

Since his rough return to the rotation on Aug. 28 against the Pirates, Capuano has excelled, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.58 ERA in four September starts. Over that stretch, Capuano has allowed just seven earned runs on 17 hits in 24 1/3 innings of work.

In each of his five late-season starts, Capuano has progressed with his pitch count, going from 75 pitches to 80, 83, 90 and 105 on Monday. His best outing came Sept. 8 against the Cardinals when he tossed seven innings while giving up one run on four hits.

While he wasn’t quite as sharp against the Reds, he said he felt even better.

“Physically, this was the best I’ve felt,” Capuano said. “I really felt good out there physically, and got the pitch count up there close to 100. It felt good.”

But did Capuano feel the effects of tossing 100 pitches for the first time in three years?

“No, I feel good,” Capuano answered. “Like I said, I think this is the best I’ve felt so far.”

Unfortunately for Capuano and the Brewers, they were unable to keep the Reds from reducing their magic number even further. After their win Monday, coupled with a Cardinals loss, the number was down to six.

After leaving with the game tied at 2, Capuano handed the ball off to reliever Kameron Loe, who delivered a scoreless 1 1/3 innings before letting things get away from him. With one out in the eighth, Loe (3-5) surrendered a single and back-to-back home runs as the Reds took a 5-2 lead.

Following an Orlando Cabrera single, Joey Votto belted a 2-2 fastball into the second deck in left-center field, putting the Reds on top, 4-2. Afterward, Macha was asked if he considered anyone other than Loe against Votto.

“You’ve got a way to go yet in the game,” Macha said. “[Zach] Braddock really hasn’t been on his game, and [Manny] Parra needed a day off, he had 20-some pitches.”

With no left-handers available and apparently not wanting to use closer John Axford, Macha stuck with Loe, who he viewed as his best option at the time.

Votto had struggled through his first three at-bats, going 0-for-3 against Capuano while being called out on strikes twice. His night went from bad to great with one swing of the bat in the eighth.

“The more times you face him, the better chance he has,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “I always say you hate to see a good hitter cold. Sooner or later the law of averages is on his side and he’s going to get somebody. That was as long of a home run to the opposite field I’ve seen.”

Added Votto: “I try not to take previous at-bats into following at-bats. I didn’t have a very good game going into that point. That’s why we play all nine innings.”

Even after the two-run homer, Loe stayed in, and Scott Rolen drove his very next pitch over the fence in right. It was the Reds’ 11th set of back-to-back home runs this season.

Loe made himself unavailable for comment after the Brewers’ 5-2 loss.

With the loss, the Brewers dropped to 36-39 at Miller Park this season. As only six home games remain on the schedule, they’ll need to win four of six to finish at .500 on the year and five of six to secure a winning home record in 2010.

Milwaukee finished 40-41 at home last year after posting four consecutive winning home records. Lately, the bright spot has been the Brewers’ ability to compete with some of the league’s best — or hottest — teams in the Reds, Phillies, Cardinals, Giants and Astros.

Offensively, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks provided the only bright spots for the Brewers. Weeks went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, while Braun drove in a pair of runs and doubled. Braun’s two RBIs moved him one behind third baseman Casey McGehee, who leads the Brewers with 94 runs batted in.

As it has been most of the season, the problem for the offense was delivering hits with runners in scoring position. The most obvious example came in the second inning, when Carlos Gomez led off with an infield single and reached third on a throwing error with none out. With three straight strikeouts, the Brewers left Gomez stranded at third.

“Gomez is on third, nobody out, we didn’t put the ball in play,” Macha said. “Little things like that hurt you when you’ve got tight games.”

Stairs’ pinch-hit blast sets MLB record

August 24, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — It was just his third home run of the season, but Matt Stairs’ two-run eighth-inning blast meant a lot more than that, and it did a lot more than simply cut the Padres’ deficit to one run in an eventual 6-5 loss to the Brewers on Saturday.

Stairs’ towering home run was his 21st career pinch-hit homer, which established a new Major League record. After tying the record on July 7, Stairs passed Cliff Johnson on Saturday, belting a 1-1 fastball from Brewers reliever Kameron Loe just beyond the seats in right field.

“It’s a great accomplishment, it really is, for a couple reasons,” manager Bud Black said. “Matt has maintained a level of play for a long time. Also, one of the hardest roles on a team is the pinch-hitter.”

Given Stairs’ history with the Brewers, it was only fitting for his record-breaking home run to come in Milwaukee. Stairs spent one season with the club in 2002, joining all-time pinch-hits leader Lenny Harris on the roster. He hit just one pinch-hit home run that season, however, as he started 75 games and got just 29 pinch-hit opportunities.

Stairs also hit a pinch-hit blast against the Brewers last season as a member of the Phillies — one Brewers fans, and starter Dave Bush, likely remember. On April 23, in Philadelphia, Stairs came to the plate with one out in the eighth and his solo homer off the right-field foul pole broke up Bush’s no-hitter.

Before the season, Stairs considered retirement until receiving an offer to sign a Minor League contract with the Padres. In 72 at-bats this season for San Diego, Stairs has 15 hits, with three home runs, 12 RBIs and 26 strikeouts. His home run Saturday put him two behind Brewers utility man Joe Inglett for the Major League lead in pinch-hits this season.

“I was never really an everyday guy,” Stairs said in Spring Training. “I think that only two years I was an everyday guy. I think it’s all mental; if you accept your job of being a pinch-hitter, you’re going to do well at it.

“I enjoy coming off the bench in the late innings. I love it. I don’t want to be an everyday guy anymore. I’m 42. It’s for the younger guys.”

After 18 seasons spent with 12 different Major League clubs, Stairs’ 262nd career home run made him the all-time leader in pinch-hit homers.

Yet, just as a pinch-hit role takes more of a team-first mentality, Stairs was unavailable to comment after the game, likely to keep the spotlight off himself after the Padres’ loss.

“He’s taken that role now for the last number of years in his career,” Black said of Stairs’ pinch-hitting. “To be able to perform at the level to break a Major League record, it’s an outstanding accomplishment.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Axford, Loe at it again in Crew’s tight victory

August 19, 2010 Comments off

ST. LOUIS — There was a time when bringing in Kameron Loe and John Axford out of the Brewers’ bullpen was as sure a sign of a Brewers victory as anything.

Things have gotten a bit more interesting lately, but when it comes down to it, Axford and Loe are the Brewers’ No. 1 and No. 2 options out of the ‘pen. If the game is on the line, it’s a pretty safe bet that one, or both, is going to pitch in the late innings.

Lately, even a heavy workload and minor struggles have not been enough to deter manager Ken Macha from making the call for the right-handed duo. More often than not, that strategy has worked out.

With a two-run lead through six innings Tuesday night, Axford and Loe combined for the final three frames as the Crew took the first of a two-game set from the Cardinals, winning, 3-2, at Busch Stadium.

Part of the strategy being successful, Macha conceded, is getting honest assessments from the players about how they feel. The other part is common sense.

“On Sunday, Axford said he was fine, but I wasn’t going to use him because he had been in two out of three days with a lot of pitches,” Macha said.

Pitching for the seventh time in the team’s past 11 games — over a 12-day span — Loe recalled memories of his stellar month of June in Tuesday’s seventh, retiring the Cardinals in order on three groundouts and just 15 pitches. But the eighth inning was a different story.

Just when Loe appeared to be back to his usual, dominant self, he gave up a pair of singles around a grounder to short, prompting Macha to call Axford’s number.

Axford, called upon to pitch more than one inning for the ninth time this season — six of which have been saves — allowed a run on a wild pitch before escaping with the lead intact. In the ninth, Axford shut down St. Louis in order, securing his 18th save of the season.

Axford picked up his sixth save of more than an inning in length in six chances and recorded his ninth appearance of four outs or more. In 36 games this season, Axford has yet to pitch less than a full frame.

“It’s been three in a row now,” Axford said, referring to his save Thursday of 1 2/3 innings and win Saturday, in which he went two full innings. “It’s fine with me, in all honesty. If that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Loe and Axford closed out a stellar performance by right-handed starter Dave Bush, who cruised through six innings, giving up just one run — Albert Pujols’ 31st homer — on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

Bush (6-10) left after just 91 pitches due to a blister on his pitching hand. Before that early exit, Bush kept the Cardinals’ hitters off balance all night, allowing no more than one baserunner in any inning.

“The biggest thing was keeping the ball down,” Bush said. “There wasn’t anything in particular that was working unusually well, but I was commanding my fastball down in the zone.”

Bush outdueled rookie Jaime Garcia, whose manager said he was “in some of his best form.”

Garcia (10-6) tossed his 16th quality start of the season and fifth of no earned runs at home, giving up just three unearned runs on five hits over six innings pitched. The left-hander was roughed up in two innings, though, both of which were marked by Felipe Lopez errors.

In the third inning, Lopez’s error proved costly. Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee belted a two-run homer to center field, which capped a three-run inning and proved to be the eventual game-winner.

“We lost that game because of me. That’s all,” Lopez said. “I make those plays, we win.”

After a quiet three-game series in Colorado, McGehee was swinging as hot a bat as ever.

Entering the game just 1-for-7 against Garcia with a walk and a strikeout, McGehee hit the ball hard up the middle in each of his three at-bats, including the two-run homer.

McGehee’s second-inning single was ripped hard off Garcia’s left leg, ricocheting into foul territory on the third-base side. An inning later, McGehee belted his 19th homer of the season.

McGehee has hit safely in 12 of his past 14 games, batting .411 (23-for-56) in that stretch with five home runs and 19 RBIs. In the 21 games since July 25, when he broke a homerless streak, McGehee has gone .370 (30-for-81) with six home runs and 22 RBIs.

“It’s a whole [heck] of a lot of luck,” McGehee joked. “The biggest thing was just confidence, I think. For a while there, I was making it a little too complicated.

“I just tried to get back to trying to playing my game and not be something I’m not.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sixth-inning struggles send Brewers to loss

July 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — After a thrilling series-opening win Monday, the Brewers’ hopes of making a run toward getting back into the playoff race were high. Two days later, a pair of blowout losses have taken a toll on such a positive outlook.

What a difference a couple days can make.

Like it has many times this season, the sixth inning loomed large for the Brewers on Wednesday. Over 103 games, the Brewers have given up 69 earned runs in the frame, good for a 6.03 ERA, which is tied with the first inning for the worst this season for the Crew.

Left-handed starter Chris Narveson combined with Kameron Loe to surrender five runs on five hits and two walks in the sixth, as the Brewers lost their second straight game to the Reds, 10-2, to drop the series and fall back to seven games under .500.

After tossing five scoreless innings and entering the top of the sixth with a two-run lead, Narveson (8-7) did not record an out, while loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.

“It was tough, because you had two ground balls in that inning, both where if they’re hit at somebody, you can get an out. One ball, you could get a double play on,” Narveson said. “It’s funny how the game is.

“It just kind of snowballed from there for us.”

Manager Ken Macha said he made the decision to remove Narveson because the Brewers had a rested bullpen after limiting the number of relievers needed a night earlier.

First out of the ‘pen was Loe, who entered the game with a 1.44 ERA over 25 appearances. He gave up two hits and walked a batter before getting the first out of the inning.

Tagged for two runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, Loe also allowed all three inherited runners to score. Entering the game, Loe had stranded 18 of 23 inherited runners.

While Loe was able to get the Reds to hit it on the ground as intended, their grounders did not work out the way he would have liked.

“They hit them too hard. I want soft ground balls, feeble contact,” Loe said. “They might have been ground balls, but not the kind I would have liked. They hit good pitches, too, so give them credit.

“They’ve got a good lineup, man. All series, I didn’t see too many bad swings.”

Loe’s ERA jumped to 1.97, but his performance in the sixth paled in comparison to the rough eighth inning for Carlos Villanueva.

With the Brewers hanging around down just three runs, Villanueva entered in the eighth to hold the Reds in check and give the top of the Brewers’ order a chance to turn the game around in the bottom half of the frame.

Instead, after playing plenty of small ball over the first seven innings, the Reds showed off the power stroke in the eighth.

Villanueva gave up a pair of singles and walked pinch-hitter Mike Leake, before surrendering a towering grand slam to deep left field off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Two batters later, Joey Votto put another out to left, making it 10-2 and putting the game out of reach.

“That grand slam just opened the game wide open,” Macha said. “The first rally, the first five runs, they put the ball in play, they give you good at-bats with two strikes, they’re not afraid to hit the ball the other way.

“Starting the second rally, we got bunts for a base hit, they got the hit-and-run there, the squeeze play, they stole some bases on us here. They’ve got a lot of ways to score.”

Offensively for the Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy each drove in a run as the Crew took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

While the game was still in reach in the seventh, center fielder Carlos Gomez led off with a double to the corner in left. He tried to stretch it to a triple, though, and was thrown out a third by Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes.

“I got him on the hop all the way from the wall. It was good,” Gomes said. “It was only 5-2 at the time. A leadoff triple might turn the game around. It was a big out for us.”

Afterward, Gomez shared a similar mindset with Gomes as he defended his mistake.

“In a situation like this, you want to make something happen and wake up the team,” Gomez said.

Milwaukee was unable to put anything together the rest of the way, as second baseman Rickie Weeks’ leadoff single in the eighth would be the last hit of the game for the Crew.

Adding insult to injury, first baseman Prince Fielder was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro after he was called out on strikes to end the eighth inning.

After putting together a Miller Park-best seven-game home win streak and winning five in a row overall, the Brewers head to Houston having lost two in a row and dropping back to nine games out of first place in the National League Central.

“I think we just look up to the next series,” Narveson said. “We leave this behind us and try to go into Houston and get right back on that winning streak.

“It’s all about winning games.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 6/24

June 24, 2010 Comments off

Weeks’ surge helps get Crew going

MILWAUKEE — With his three RBIs on Wednesday, Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks pushed his season total to 41 and took the Major League lead in RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Weeks’ 11 homers as the team’s leadoff hitter also ranks second behind Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, who has 12.

With right fielder Corey Hart batting behind Weeks, the Brewers have 29 home runs and 95 RBIs from their leadoff and No. 2 hitters, though much of Hart’s production has come from the No. 6 spot.

Brewers manager Ken Macha has said in the past that Weeks’ production is the true key to the club’s offensive success, even more so than sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. But like the club’s sluggers, Weeks struggles at times with consistency.

“He’s like all the other guys, they ride the roller coaster a little bit,” Macha said. “You try to avoid the big dips. He had a pretty big dip there for a while.”

Weeks’ performance over the past month has been an offensive resurgence from the Brewers second baseman, who had been struggling when the club faced the Twins at Target Field in Minnesota last month.

That slump for Weeks came after he opened the season with a career-high-tying 10-game hitting streak, making him only the fifth player in franchise history to begin the season with a hit streak of at least 10 games.

“At the beginning of the year, he was extremely hot,” Macha said. “If I remember right, we played a Pittsburgh series where they pitched him a little differently, and it kind of got him off his game. He was trying to make adjustments and it wasn’t working.”

Over the past five games entering Thursday, however, Weeks had a five-game hitting streak in which he’d collected seven hits in 17 at-bats while scoring five runs and driving in seven runs with two doubles and a home run.

“As of late, he’s done some real good things. The double with the bases loaded in Colorado was a huge hit,” Macha said. “I keep preaching this: Up the middle and opposite field always is a good way to go. That big hit last night went up the middle.”

Macha has confidence in Lucroy’s defense

MILWAUKEE — When rookie catcher Jonathan Lucroy was called up a month ago, the Brewers were concerned with his ability to stop sharp breaking balls.

Though he let five wild pitches get by him on Wednesday night in a 5-3 win over the Twins, manager Ken Macha said he’s been satisfied with Lucroy’s defense since taking over the starting role.

“What were there, five wild pitches? He had a tough time with them,” Macha said. “But he’s been pretty good up until yesterday as far as stopping balls. He caught [Yovani Gallardo] up in Colorado and did a great job as Yo was throwing that hard breaking ball in the dirt.”

In addition to four wild pitches by left-handed starter Manny Parra, reliever Kameron Loe saw one get by Lucroy in the seventh. According to Lucroy, both Parra’s splitter and Loe’s two-seam fastball are plus pitches with a lot of break.

With that in mind, Lucroy was not worried about being unable to stop those five pitches.

“Sometimes those things happen. There’s not really anything I could do to stop them,” Lucroy said. “It’s hard, because they were on his splitter, and when he throws that thing you don’t know where it’s going. That’s why it’s so good, because it’s unpredictable.”

Macha acknowledged before Thursday’s game that he thought one of the wild pitches led to Parra being tentative with his splitter for a stretch, but Macha did not think it had a significant impact on the game.

“I think Manny just got a little streak, maybe three or four hitters where he got tentative,” Macha said. “He came back after that inning and threw the ball well.”

As for the Loe wild pitch, Lucroy said his two-seam fastball is even harder to stop than Parra’s splitter.

“His two-seamer is a hard, sinking fastball,” Lucroy said. “It just bit and went straight down to the ground. That happens. I can’t do anything about that and I can’t block a fastball. I can’t get down quick enough for that. All I can try to do is pick it, and I couldn’t grab that one.”

Braddock tends to have initial advantage

MILWAUKEE — One thing about the matchup between lefty reliever Zach Braddock and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in the Brewers’ 5-3 win over the Twins on Wednesday really stood out to manager Ken Macha: Thome had not previously faced Braddock.

Since calling Braddock up before the series finale at Target Field on May 23, the Brewers have seen the 22-year-old hard-throwing lefty enjoy plenty of success against hitters the first time he faces them.

“If you haven’t faced Braddock, you don’t realize how the ball jumps up on you,” Macha said. “The first time you face somebody like that … he hides the ball, it jumps on you.”

In Thome’s first at-bat against Braddock, the left-handed slugger went down swinging at a 1-2 slider.

After getting Thome to strike out to end the sixth, Braddock struck out another batter who had not previously faced him in center fielder Denard Span. Braddock followed that up with his third strikeout of the game, getting Orlando Hudson — who doubled off Braddock in Minnesota — to go down swinging.

Similar to Braddock has been reliever Kameron Loe, whose movement on his fastball has surprised even his manager at times.

“The movement of Loe’s fastball is off the charts,” Macha said. “I remember back to an at-bat somebody had in Florida and I thought they were all sliders — they were moving so much — but they were all fastballs.”

Loe saw some adjustments by hitters in his second inning on Tuesday night, but impressed by striking out third baseman Michael Cuddyer for the second straight night on Wednesday.

According to Macha, the key for Loe is to get the first-pitch strike.

“The at-bat against Cuddyer, strike one was very important,” Macha said. “That kind of forced Cuddyer to swing, because he took strike one. They know the ball’s sinking a lot, so strike one was very important for him.

“We’ll see how these guys progress as they get out there a little more in the scouting report.”

Worth noting

With a win Thursday, the Brewers would tie a season-long winning streak of four games. The club previously won four consecutive games from May 18-22. … A win would also give Milwaukee a sweep of the Minnesota, something the club has not done in a series of three or more games since May 17-20, 1996, at the Metrodome. … The Brewers’ last sweep of the Twins in Milwaukee came Aug. 24-27, 1995, when they took a four-game series at County Stadium. … The game on Saturday, July 3 at the St. Louis Cardinals has been changed to a 5:35 p.m. CT first pitch and has been added to the FS Wisconsin broadcast schedule. It was previously scheduled to begin at 3:10 p.m.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weeks helps Crew overcome wildness

June 23, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — To be effective, Manny Parra has to be wild, to some degree. That was certainly the case for the Brewers lefty on Wednesday at Miller Park.

Despite throwing four wild pitches, Parra (2-5) effectively limited the Twins’ offense, giving up two runs during 5 2/3 innings as the Brewers took the 5-3 victory over the Twins.

Parra tied a club record with four wild pitches in a game, set by Ed Sprague on May 14, 1975, against the Rangers. According to both Parra and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, however, with a splitter like Parra’s, wild pitches are going to happen.

“With my split-finger, I’m bound to throw wild pitches,” Parra said. “I think last year, I shied away from it a little bit … but I’ve got to keep throwing that pitch, that’s the way I’m successful. I get guys swinging at some of those pitches.”

But as Lucroy was quick to point out, Parra only allowed two runners to score following a wild pitch — Twins first baseman Justin Morneau and third baseman Michael Cuddyer in the fourth.

“He did a good job of getting back in control and throwing some strikes,” Lucroy said. “The one thing you can take away from that is the way he bounced back and minimized the damage.”

Perhaps most importantly for Parra, though, the Brewers’ offense made the most of its opportunities, giving the lefty just enough run support to earn his first win since May 23, also against Minnesota, and his first win as a starter since Sept. 25, 2009, against the Phillies.

While the Brewers entered the game with a 5-19 record when not hitting a home run, they played small ball on Wednesday night to get the victory.

After both were stranded following a pair of singles to lead off the first, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart combined to drive in four of the Brewers’ five runs. Weeks, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, played a role in all five Brewers runs on the night.

“We hustled to get our runs, we scrapped to get our runs,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “Sometimes, you have to do that. It’s not always on the big boys to do everything.”

Following a Weeks walk in the third, Hart ripped a double to the left-field corner, which scored Weeks from first.

One inning later, Weeks drove in a pair when he came up with a big two-run, two-out single to put the Brewers up, 3-2.

With Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee combining for a 0-for-10 night, with a lone RBI from Braun in the seventh on a fielder’s choice, the top of the Brewers’ order showed its run-producing potential.

“I don’t know if we would be 1-2 in most lineups, but we are in this lineup,” Hart said. “We try to get on base for the guys behind us. It’s nice to drive in runs, as well, but I think our goal is to get on as much as we can for Prince and Brauny.

“I’m not a power hitter. … I see myself as a guy that I role play to try to get going for those guys.”

Behind Parra, the Brewers’ bullpen was effective once again, giving up one run over 3 1/3 innings on four hits, while striking out five and walking just one.

Lefty Zach Braddock — who returned to the team after missing Tuesday’s series opener due to a death in the family — got a huge out for the Brewers in the sixth, entering in place of Parra to strike out pinch-hitter Jim Thome.

According to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, the decision to remove starter Francisco Liriano, who had thrown only 77 pitches over five innings, was done to try to take advantage of a big opportunity in a National League ballgame.

“Got to try to win a ballgame. We’re losing. He’s probably got one more inning left in him, anyway,” Gardenhire said. “You’ve got a couple of guys on. Try to get him in a situation where, if he hits a double, score a couple runs.

“This National League stuff is different than it is over in our league. Have to take a chance when you can.”

After Braddock, the Brewers used Kameron Loe for one out in the seventh, Carlos Villanueva in the eighth, and John Axford closed it out in the ninth, earning the save.

“We got some big outs from the bullpen tonight,” Macha said. “Braddock coming in in the sixth inning, striking out Thome. Loe getting the strikeout on Cuddyer in the seventh. Good inning by Villa … and Ax made good pitches. He put the ball right where he wanted to.”